Friday, November 17, 2017

When We're Ready . . . or Not~

I never really knew
just how ready he was
until today.

One year, nine months, and thirteen days -
this is how long it has taken me
to get up the heart
to tackle emptying out
my husband's truck.

And by emptying out,
I mean that in every sense of the word.
You see,
my man's truck wasn't just a form of transportation,
it was his own personal, small, on-hand storage center.

This Chevy with an extended cab
was jam packed with all the things
that made him, him.

A Bible (the very first one he ever owned)
Sunglasses
Axes
Toothpicks (he always had one in his mouth)
Matches
A pine cone
Binoculars
A can of Fix a Flat
Cards from me
2 camou caps
A tarp
Toolkit
Emergency Kit
Toothpicks (he loved toothpicks!)
Trinkets that belonged to his mother
Forest Service maps
A bottle of automatic transmission fluid
Protective eye wear
Flashlight
Small bottle of cologne
2 hunting jackets
Rope
Filled water bottles
Toothpicks (have I mentioned toothpicks?!)
2 small saws
Shovel
Pop up chair
Can of WD-40

To name just a few.

Yes,
opening the door and climbing inside today
was like stepping inside a museum of my man.

As I tenderly removed each item
I thought back to
hunting trips,
fishing trips,
and woodhauling trips,
where inevitably,
each time before he drove out of the yard
I always asked,
"Are you sure you're ready?
Do you have everything you need?"

"Yes, Beautiful.  I'm ready.
Trust me. I'm more than ready.
I've got everything I need."

And, I did trust him.

But, today,
as I laid hands
on all that showed he was ready,
I truly knew it to be so.

My man had been ready.

And, I couldn't help thinking back
to past conversations I had overheard
as my love spoke on the phone with his father,
who was in his 90s.

"Your bones hurt?
And, you want to go to the doctor to find out why?
Here, I'll save you some time and money.
You're old.
That's why your bones hurt, Pop.
{Insert his throw back your head
and laugh with everything you have laughter here}
It's just part of life.
My bones hurt and I'm not anywhere close to 90!
No - when my time comes,
I'm ready.
Anytime God wants,
trust me,
I'm more than ready."

And, I don't know if his Pop trusted his words,
but I did.

And, I couldn't help thinking back
to that night
one year, nine months, and thirteen days ago.

When a call from him
while I was at my office
found me driving home at record speed
only to walk through the front door
to the sound of silence.

I'll never forget that moment -
the moment I saw him lying
motionless in our hall bathroom.

And, I'll never forget his face -
a face radiant with the joy of the Lord,
a face filled with peace,
so much peace.

As I knelt down beside him
and tenderly held him close,
I laid hands
on all that showed he was ready,
and I truly knew it to be so.

"Yes, Beautiful.  I'm ready.
Trust me. I'm more than ready.
I've got everything I need."

And, he did.
For He had the one
who died that he might one day live again.

He had the blessed hope
of life everlasting with Jesus, our Lord.

My man had been ready.

And, I couldn't help thinking about me,
in that moment.

My man knew he was ready,
but me,
I didn't know I was, -

ready to be without him,
ready to do life alone,
ready to be a me after being a we,
ready to face all that was up ahead,

but,

when I least expected it
and the time came,
in that very moment of not being ready at all,
not one bit ready,
my already-trusting-God-with-my-life heart
reached out and laid hands
on all the promises of God,
and I trusted HIM.

I believed HIS word.

And in that moment,
and in every moment since,
I have truly known HIM to be so.

One year, nine months, and thirteen days,
and my God has been with me every second of the way.

Just like He was today,
as I,
in one more tear-dropping way,
let go of what was -
all the while
holding on even tighter to
what one day will be.











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Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Changing of the Seasons~

I wrote this post for Incourage
only a few short months
before losing my Handsome Honey.

As I typed the final period,
I asked my man
to come into the bedroom
so I could read it to him.

"Did you get it, Beautiful?"

"I don't know," I said.
"I'm not sure if I should submit it.
What if they don't like it?"

"Then, they won't choose it," he answered back,
matter-of-factly.
"But, if they do
and it's God's will,
it will happen.
And hey,
you miss 100% of the shots
you don't take."

I wasn't surprised
he threw in that famous quote.
It wasn't the first time
he had tossed it in my direction.

"Let me hear it."

I don't know why, -
maybe because he wasn't a computer guy,
or maybe because I never asked him to,
but, he had seldom read any of my writing.

When I finished reading the post to him,
he just stood there for a bit.
Then, clearing his throat and wiping a tear,
he said, "That's good. Really good.
These words God gave you
can bless someone.
Send it in."

Last night,
(well, actually, I guess 12:08 AM would be morning)
as it came up in my "On This Day" Facebook memories -
a reminder that I had shared it
on my personal Facebook page
the day it was posted on the Incourage website -
I sat alone in my mom's kitchen,
missing my man
with a missing
that can take your breath away,
re-reading these words once again
and remembering that night
two years ago.

And, as usual,
my man was right:
- I would have missed this shot
if I wouldn't have taken it
and
these words God gave me
did bless someone, -
me,
last night.




(You can read the post I submitted and had accepted HERE.)








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Sunday, November 5, 2017

When You are Smushed and Squeezed~

It seems to me
if a ketchup packet is labeled a ketchup packet,
when you smush it and squeeze it
until it can't take the pressure one bit more,
ketchup should squirt out.

It's just right.
It just makes sense.

And, that's what has me feeling so very broken.

No, someone didn't slip me a faulty ketchup packet.
If fault is to be found,
it can be found with no one but myself.

You see,
here lately,
life has been smushing me and squeezing me
until it almost feels as though
I can't take the pressure one bit more.
And, as hard as it is to admit,
and as hard as it is to write it here
in black and white
for everyone to see,
this heart that has been labeled
Christ-like,
is squirting out anything but
Christ-like qualities.

In fact,
what has been spewing out of my heart
(and subsequently my mouth)
doesn't represent Christ at all,
not one bit,
not by a long shot.

And despite all the stress I am under,
despite all the issues I am wrestling with,
the one thing that bothers me most,
the one thing that has found me broken and shattered,
is the realization of who I am.

And, I realize
stress and emotional issues don't usually
bring out the best version of who we are,
but if we are Christ's,
if we have truly surrendered
who we are
to who He is,
shouldn't we resemble the best version of Him,
especially in difficult times?

Isn't this the true test of
what is truly in our heart?

"Don't take it so hard, Stacy.
Some people just know how to push our buttons."

"We aren't going to get along with everyone.
Sometimes you just have to walk away."

And, while I know this to be true,
I also know
that as easy as it would be
to blame my reactions on someone else,
deep down inside the truth is this:
My reactions belong to me and me alone.

I can't blame
how I respond,
how I react,
on someone else.

When I am smushed and squeezed
and Christ doesn't pour forth from my heart,
I only have me to blame.

And if this is where the story ended, -
me lost,
wallowing aimlessly in a sea of guilt and shame -
I would be broken and shattered
beyond any hope of repair.

But, praise God,
this is the very place where Christ
once again,
faithful and true,
loving and kind,
merciful and full of grace,
steps in.

While I am the only one to blame for my actions,
Christ is the only One powerful enough to free me from them.

While I am the only one to blame for my ugliness and stench,
Christ is the only One who can bring beauty in place of them.

My brokenness breaks me
not to condemn me,
but to convict me:
to show me once again
my continual need of my Savior.

Walking with Christ is not a one time,
this prayer fixes everything,
you're good to go,
kind of journey.

Yes, it is true,
our salvation is granted
the moment we cry out to God in our sinfulness,
but the refining of our character,
the transforming of our behavior,
the molding and re-shaping of our heart,
the sanctification process itself -
this takes a life time.

And it is this very place I find myself in now,
that is allowing God to do some of His greatest work in me.
I have to believe this to be true
even though I still don't see
His beauty,
His reflection,
His character,
squirting out of me under pressure.

My painful awareness of my lack of Christ-likeness,
and my brokenness about who I truly am on the inside,
both assure me
Christ is at work.

Otherwise, I wouldn't care.
Otherwise, I would be sleeping right now
instead of here,
working through this issue with my God,
as I type on my keyboard.

Yes, God is at work,
and He will be faithful to finish what He started.

I'm not who I yet long to be,
but praise God,
I am not who I used to be either.

I am a work in progress
and progress takes,
well - progress.

Moment by moment,
day by day,
as I allow God's Spirit
to have His way.








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Thursday, November 2, 2017

When You Feel Out of Sorts and Out of Sync~

Chances are if you ask me to go,
I'll say "no".

I don't know why,
but for some reason,
I'm just not a parade person.
I don't really care to attend them,
and I definitely don't want to be in them.
Somehow watching people pass by in front of me,
doesn't capture my attention.
And being the center of attention,
passing by all those watching the passerbys
is just not my idea of a good time.

And yet, life -
if you really get to dissecting it,
is a lot like a parade.

Sometimes,
you are the one on the sidelines watching,
and sometimes,
you are the one parading through it.
And sometimes,
you are trying to do both.

And for someone like me, -
someone who doesn't "parade"
in any form or fashion, -
it can be an uncomfortable place to be.

Like the last three months,
when I have simultaneously found myself
on the sidelines watching my mother live her life,
while trying to keep step in my own.

And, I'm here to tell you -
it is not easy to do both,
and to do both well.

As I crank my head to keep an eye on her,
I can't help but step out of line and bump into
all the hoopla happening around me.

In trying to stay focused on her,
I am losing focus on
where I am going,
what's happening around me,
where I need to be,
how I am doing.

My forward progress,
which had been going in a fairly straight line,
now resembles a figure 8.

I feel dizzy,
out of sorts,
out of step,
out of me.

And my mom,
in spite of all my best intentions,
remains untouched by my efforts.

It's like an invisible glass wall between us -
we are in sight of each other
(even living under the same roof these last three months!)
but because
her parade is not mine
and mine is not hers,
we are not in sync.

Not anywhere close to being in sync.

From my parade, I point at her to turn left in hers.
Only she doesn't want to go left,
she wants to go right.
I signal for her to pick up the pace
and she instead marches in place.
I motion for her to try a new maneuver
and she keeps with the old, familiar routine.

And when I finally turn around
and focus back on me,
I discover my own parade
has left me in the dust.

And if this wasn't bad enough,
I feel as though the whole world is watching.

And then today,
as tears of frustration, failure, and fear
pour down my face,
a trusted friend
hugs and comforts,
encourages and strengthens.
prays and counsels.

I text her later:
"Love you! So much thank you."

Her reply:
"I don't think it's possible for you to love me more than I love you Stacy."

Me:
You do love beautifully well.

Her:
You do NOT have to be ok with me!!
Because that's what real friends do,
they are there for each other in the tough times, too!!

Me:
To be able to be me in my mess - what a gift. Thank you.

And I've come to realize
parades can be messy.

Batons can be thrown up
only to be missed on the way back down.

Decorations can adorn a makeshift float
only to catch a gust of wind and become airborne.

Feet can walk over asphalt
only to trip on the smallest bump and stumble.

Anything can happen in a parade.
Especially in a parade that hasn't been rehearsed,
that was spur of the moment,
jumped into and embarked upon in a split second.

But the thing about a parade is this:
It has to keep moving forward.

If it ceases to move,
it ceases to be a parade.

And, I have to believe
that my mom in her way
and me in mine
will eventually make it to our own finish lines -
it just might not be pretty along the way.

We are going to miss some batons,
lose some decorations,
and stumble our way through,
but if we keep going,
if we keep marching,
if we keep listening to the directions
from The One who knows the way we should go,
our Abba Daddy,
the Alpha and Omega,
the Beginning and the End,
we will eventually arrive.

And even though people are watching,
messy just might be ok for them to see,
because maybe just maybe,
it will encourage them in their own journey.

Maybe it will help them not feel so alone
when they are out of step,
out of sorts,
and out of sync.

Maybe just maybe,
it will encourage them to keep going.

Yes, chances are if you ask me to go,
I'll say "no".

But sometimes,
sometimes God takes your "no"
and pulls you into the parade anyway.

And for someone like me, -
someone who doesn't "parade"
in any form or fashion, -
it can be the very place,
I will come to know myself
and know my God
in ways I never would otherwise.

And if I parade in tune with His Spirit,
learning,
following,
messing up,
confessing,
trying again,
and again,
and again,
maybe just maybe,
it will be the place where others
will come to know themselves
and their God
in ways they never would otherwise, too.










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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

That She Might Know~

I suppose in some families
when the topic of God comes up,
the conversation sadly goes something like this:
"No, I don't want anything to do with God.
Quit pressuring me. Quit talking to me about Him.
Leave me alone. I don't want and I don't need God."

And, I can only imagine how heartbreaking
these words spoken,
and these words heard,
must be.

I can only imagine because
in my family with my own precious momma
when the topic of God comes up
the conversation sadly goes something like this:
"Don't worry, Momma.
I've got God!  I've got God!
More than the air I breathe,
more than anything and anyone,
I've got God."

To which she always replies,
as she sadly shakes her head,
a look of worry and fear all over her face,
"I sure hope so.  I sure hope you do."

And, I don't even have to imagine how heartbreaking
these words spoken
and these words heard,
must be;
I know.

And no matter how hard I try to convince her,
no matter what I say or what I do,
no matter how I try
through the help and empowerment of the Holy Spirit
to live out a life of "Christ in me",
I can't bring the peace
of knowing that she knows that I have God
to her heart.

Tonight,
after word after word was spoken
and all attempts to reassure her once again
fell on deaf ears,
I sit here in the midnight hour,
tears a steady stream
and the groans of my heart,
ascending to Heaven.

And, I hear my God whisper,
"I know, sweet girl.  I know.
You don't need to say a word,
I know.
And, it is enough."

"But, I need her to know.
I don't want her to spend
one more needless moment worrying about me,
about my place with You,
about my salvation."

And, again -
He whispers,
"I know, sweet girl.  I know.
You don't need to say a word.
I know.
And, it is enough."

So - I do what only I can do,
I leave it here with my God, -
the God I have
more than the air I breathe,
the God I have
more than anything and anyone,
and because I know
He knows
it. is. enough.










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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Dance~

Yesterday, after accompanying my mother
to her eye doctor appointment
in a nearby town,
I was able to spend a few short moments
strolling the bank of the river
that runs through this quaint mountain community.

As I breathed in the crisp, damp air
and tried to soak in every bit
of the breathtaking display of Fall color,
I found myself dancing with a beautiful crane.

I first spotted it on a rock
in the middle of the river.
As I strolled along the bank,
peering through trees and leaves of gold
trying to get closer,
I lost sight of it.

Then,
retracing my steps
back to my original viewing spot,
there it was,
still on the rock.

As I moved closer once again, -
this time,
it took to the air -
but, only high enough to soar over the water
in a way that was pure beauty in motion.

And, it was then,
I found myself dancing with it -
moving this way
and then that way
just to catch a glimpse.

And, it was as if
in this brief moment of time,
we were both caught up in
praise to our Lord.

A dance of celebration for
the beauty of Fall,
the beauty of sight,
the beauty of life,
the very beauty of being alive.

And, I was -
truly alive!

Then, as quickly as this creature
had taken to the air,
it rested on a rock right by me.

It was only after the dance
that I was able to capture this photo -
a beautiful memento
of so much more
than just a bird,
but rather a beautiful moment
of praise to our God.









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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Listen Hard~

If you haven't been,
if you aren't already -
listen hard to the words of
your father and your mother,
your sister and your brother,
your son and your daughter,
a grandparent or a friend,
your husband or your wife.

Listen hard to what they say
and what they don't say.
And then, as best you can,
tuck each treasured word
and each shared conversation
into your heart.

For there will be days up ahead
when you will need these very words
to come alongside and help you
answer a problem,
understand a reaction,
solicit a response,
recognize a need,
provide an opinion,
determine a decision,
or simply strengthen your resolve.

For it is in listening,
we understand.

And it is in understanding,
we connect.

And it is in connecting,
we respond.

And it is in responding,
we act.

And it is in acting,
we are able to
transform a situation,
touch a heart,
change a life.

It starts with listening hard
to those around us.

Then, listening hard to our God
speaking to us
about those around us.

And,
for God to
transform our situation,
touch our heart,
change our life,
we simply and earnestly
and diligently and obediently
meed to listen hard to our God
speaking to us about us.

It all starts
with us choosing
to listen hard.








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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Bold, Beautiful, All Me Thought~

There are moments in my day
when a memory of my handsome honey
slowly and nonchalantly
meanders across my mind.

Usually,
the memory starts out as
something completely different
that somehow eventually
leads me down a trail of thought
that turns into something I remember he did,
or something I remember he said.

But,
there are other times
when the memory of my man
is front and center,
capable of standing all on its own,
just because of what it is.

It is bold,
beautiful,
all him.

And, it is in these beautifully bold,
all him moments,
that I often find myself wondering .  .  .
what bold, beautiful all me memories
would remind my man of me
if it would have been my heart 
that stopped beating
and not his?

And without a doubt,
today was a day
that would have found me
plastered all across my man's heart,
via a bold, beautiful, all me memory.

A day when
rain found its way to the desert
and clouds hung low on the mountains.

A day when -
with camera in hand -
I  would've kissed my man good day
and drove around town
in search of the perfect photo
to capture my ideal
of a near perfect day.

My man knew I loved a day like today.

And I couldn't help thinking
if he was the one here today and not me,
he would have looked at the clouds
hung low on the mountain
and he would have
instantly, boldly, beautifully
thought of me.

This is not a conceited thought.
This is simply a fact
that my heart is sure of
and more preciously, understands.

And somehow,
thinking of my handsome honey
thinking about me
as I was thinking about
the fact that he would be thinking of me
blessed my heart is a most precious way.

To know
and to be known.

To think of and remember
and to be thought of and remembered.

How precious is that?!

And to think,
my precious Abba Daddy,
knows me completely,
thinks of me continuously
and remembers me always.

This is not a conceited thought.
This is simply a fact
that my heart is sure of
and more preciously, understands.

He, too,
knows I love a day like today.

And somehow,
thinking of my Abba Daddy
thinking about me
as I am thinking about
the fact that He is forever
thinking of me
completely,
continuously,
always-
blesses my heart in a most precious way.










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Saturday, September 23, 2017

What Kind of Print~




I pray 
I am leaving 
heartprints of God 
everywhere I go.







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Thursday, September 21, 2017

While We Were Yet~

Looking across the drive,
I spotted this tree,
and in it,
I spotted me.

Against the backdrop
of the setting sun,
I noticed for the very first time,
if you see it not for what it is,
but what it resembles,
you can see in it,
the outline of a heart.

And, I thought of me -
a mere human to mere humans,
but against the backdrop
of the light of God's love,
my God sees me -
not for what I am-
but for what I long to resemble -
a heart like His,
a love like His.

And I thought once again,
of His precious love -
love that was willing to die
before I resembled Him,
before I even knew Him or loved Him, -
while I was yet lost
in my humanness,
imprisoned by my sin,
a sinner through and through.

While we were yet,
Christ loved us.
While we were yet,
Christ died for us.

And it is because of His love,
and because of His death,
and because of my new life in Him,
that more and more,
day by day,
I - like this tree -
can reveal to the world,
not me,
but the heart of the Creator,
the heart of my Savior.











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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Moment in Time~

The sun has bid us adieu
and dipped behind the hill.

As the sky hangs on tight
to the last light of day,
birds are chirping their goodnights.

Unlike the birds,
I am not ready to say goodnight.

Just like the sky,
I am desperately trying
to wring out every last bit of this day.

To be able to pause time
and just sit here and linger -
for another few minutes,
another few hours,
another day or two more.

But, I can't.

With every tick, tock, tick of the clock,
with every rotation of earth on its axis,
with every single breath,
life is moving on.

We are only given one moment, -
one moment at a time.

But, sometimes it seems,
we aren't given enough time
for each and every moment.

Such is the case right here,
right now.

As the cool of the "almost here" night
brushes against my face,
I breathe it in
and hold it -
for just a few seconds -
then,
slowly let it out.

As the sky grows dimmer and dimmer,
I soak in the sun-tipped clouds
and hold them, too -
for just a few seconds -
then,
I slowly close my eyes in prayer
and give thanks for this day.










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Sunday, September 17, 2017

When You Hear So Much More Than Words~

As I meandered
past the small table where she was sitting,
she looked up.

"Good Morning," I said,
as I smiled and made my way
on over to the counter.

"Excuse me," she said.
"Would you mind moving closer
so I can read the back of your shirt?"

Hearing her frail voice and her simple request,
I happily stepped back over to her table,
turned my back to her,
pulled on the bottom of my shirt
to remove any wrinkles,
and then listened
as she read the words written there,
out loud.


"Oh, I love that verse,"
 she exclaimed.

As I turned to face her,
her face lit up.

"I thought that was you!"
she said with an excitement
that took me completely by surprise.
"I think I've heard you speak.
You are a speaker,
aren't you?"

I couldn't help
but smile.

"Yes," I quietly answered.
 "I am.
As a matter of fact,
this T-shirt
is from a women's retreat
I spoke at several years ago."


"I knew it!" she said,
as she clapped her hands together.
"I've seen you on TV
speaking about God!"

"No, Ma'am, I'm sorry," I quickly interjected,
"You must have me mistaken with someone else.
I've never been on TV."

"Well, you will be, dear.
One day,
you will be!"

And in that moment,
it wasn't my ears who heard her words,
but my spirit.
And, I knew God,
as He always is,
was in this place,
in this conversation,
in these very words.

"I don't know what I would do
without God," she continued.
"You probably won't understand this,
being that you are still so young,
but I lost my husband 18 years ago,
and I still miss him terribly.
Every day, oh, how I miss that man.
God is the only thing that has kept me going
all these years without him.
It's a hard kind of missing
that you can't really understand
until you, yourself, have been there.
Losing him broke my heart,
but God has always been there for me."

Without even thinking about it,
my right hand met my left
and gently turned my wedding ring,
still on my finger,
a year and a half later.

"Life is all about
what you choose to see.
Like me, right now,
choosing to read the back of your shirt,
and finding encouragement for my soul.
Or, like the time we had car trouble
out in the middle of nowhere.
I've never forgotten that time.
There we were, -
Oh, I'm sorry -
I'm talking your ear off.
Do you have time for this story?"

"Yes," I smiled,
"I would love to hear it."

She smiled back,
a beautiful smile, heart deep,
and continued right where she had left off.

" . . .out in the middle of nowhere,
with no one around,
we were pulled off to the side of the road.
All my daughter and I could do
was wait for God to send some help.
Just wait for God to move.
But, do you know,
while we were waiting,
we saw the most glorious sunset!
And, then, if that wasn't enough,
we saw the most beautiful full moon come up.
No, I will never forget that."

"Are you ready, Stacy?"

The voice of my mother,
who had stopped by the restroom
on our way in,
floated into our conversation.

"This is my mother," I said
as I introduced my mom
to my new found friend.

"Hello," this precious lady said
as she reached out,
took hold of my hand,
and looked up at my mother.
"We've been having the most wonderful time."

Then she looked deep in my eyes.

"I've enjoyed visiting with you.
I'm so glad you took the time to listen."

And once again,
in that moment,
it wasn't my ears who heard her words,
but my spirit

I'm so glad you took the time to listen.

And, I knew God,
as He always is,
was in this place,
in this conversation,
in these very words.

And, I also knew
these very words
were just what my heart needed to
"grow in the grace and knowledge
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

For this precious encounter,
for this moment of "listening",
for this moment of "hearing"
far beyond what was said -

"To Him be the glory
both now
and to the day of eternity.
Amen."







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Saturday, September 16, 2017

When God's Plans Come Together~

2002.
The year God led me north,
and into the home of my parents,
and into the title of Principal and Teacher in a brand new Christian school,
and into the lives of so many beautiful people.

2007.
The year God released me to head back south,
and into my own home and bed,
and into the title of Nanny and later, Director of Children's Ministries,
and into the remaining years with my husband.

2017.
The year God once again led me north,
and back into the home of my mom,
and back into the lives of so many beautiful people.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, 
and he delights in his way.
~Psalm 37:23

I certainly can't claim to be good,
but my God most definitely is.
The way He has beautifully woven together
the steps of my life
is a precious testimony
of His faithfulness and love.

This past Tuesday,
a perfect example.

As soon as I heard her voice,
lifted my eyes up to see her,
stood up to meet her,
and wrapped my arms around her in a huge hug,
the tears came.

I've always been a cry baby,
but there is something now,
since losing my husband,
that has me in tears
the moment my heart realizes
it is in the company
of someone that loves me.

And, this friend of the faith
and sister in the Lord,
loves me.
And, I love her.
The tears -
well, they simply had no choice
but to fall.

Having not seen each other
in almost a decade,
didn't matter.
Our conversation flowed
as easily and as freely
as our tears.

"I'm here to help you
in any way I can.
Really.
Call me anytime.
If you want someone to talk to,
or want someone to share a cup of tea with,
or need anything at all.
I'm here for you."

And,
my heart and I -
we both know she is.

Standing before her now,
ten years down the road
from the last time we spoke,
I realized this reunion
was strategically planned
and lovingly orchestrated
by the God who orders my steps.

Fifteen years ago
when He called me north,
when He brought me to the home of my parents,
when He brought me to a new job,
when He brought me into the lives of so many beautiful people,
He knew then
that I would need
these beautiful people now.

What seemed like an opportunity to
spend time with my ailing father,
help out my overworked mother,
and minister to children and their families,
was also an opportunity to
build relationships and a support system
that would be in place for me now.

"Lord, if only my husband was still here.
Oh, how I need his support."

This prayer has come from my lips
over and over and over
these past few weeks,
and yet,
this past Tuesday,
embraced in the arms
of one who knows and loves me well,
I knew God had already gone before me,
fifteen years before,
for such a time as this,
right here,
right now,
in 2017.

We don't always see it at the time.
We don't always understand His ways.
But,
in each step,
in each calling,
in each and every closed door,
and in each and every new opportunity,
God is at work.

Our God knows what we need.
And, our God knows where we need to be.

I needed to be here then,
and I need to be here now.
And God,
in His wisdom and tender love
designed, orchestrated and executed one beautiful plan
with another,
just as beautiful,
in mind.

It's who He is.
It's what He does.
It's how He works.

And, when we see it played out
and the pieces fitting perfectly in place,
it's where we come to know our God
in a way that causes us to
love Him
and trust Him
even more.

2002.
The year I came north.

2007.
The year I went back south.

2017.
The year God brought me full circle
and opened my eyes to see
more clearly than ever before

" . . . Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think . . ."
~Ephesians 3:20










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Thursday, September 14, 2017

When Your Momma Needs You and You Need God~

I stand in the hallway,
resting my head on her bedroom door
in the wee hours of the morning, -
a faint light from the night light
in the bathroom across the hall,
keeping total darkness at bay.

As my hand glides over the wood
separating us at this particular moment,
my heart is overcome with fear to realize
the differences between us,
moment by moment,
day by day,
might be causing my precious mother
to feel barricaded and alone -
alone in her battle,
alone in her fears,
alone in her confusion.

And, I find myself doing what only comes naturally -
wiping tears from my eyes while
crying out to my God.

Lord,
I don't want to fail her -
not now,
not ever.

Lord, she needs me.
But, more than that,
she needs to know
I hear what she isn't saying,
I understand her spoken and unspoken concerns,
I sense her fears,
I realize her struggle,
I'm on her side.

Lord, I need You.
I need Your patience and Your peace,
I need Your wisdom and Your instruction,
I need Your still small voice
whispering to me
boldly, loudly, clearly
what to do,
what to say,
what to meddle into,
what to leave alone.

She's my mother,
my precious mother.
All my life,
she has been the one standing outside
the door of my life,
praying for Godly guidance to lead me.

"Raising you girls was the hardest job I ever had.
I didn't know anything about babies or
how to raise children."

It's an admission she has confessed
and I have heard
time and time again.

But now,
it's my turn.

Lord,
I don't have a clue in the world 
how to honor a parent
in her golden years of life.
I don't know anything about
helping without insulting her independence,
questioning without insulting her intelligence,
interfering without insulting her privacy.

Serving my mom is the hardest job I have ever had,
simply and only because
I don't know how to do it,
right.

Through the door,
I hear the sounds of
what I hope are sweet dreams, -
slow, steady, deep breaths -
and I wipe another tear.

Lord,
may my presence here 
bring with it,
the sweetness of You.

May my being with my precious Momma
day to day,
bring her a sense of 
peace and comfort,
companionship and strength,
joy and relief.

May she find in me now,
what I found in her so many years ago -
safety,
security,
protection,
wisdom,

home.

May she know that she knows that she knows
that I love her,
with every bit of my heart,
I love her.

Lord, 
I need You,
now more than ever
because she needs me
now more than ever.
She needs
what only You can do
for her
through me.

I don't want to fail her, Lord.
I can't fail her,
because she didn't fail me.

Lead me,
that I, in turn,
might have the 
incredible honor
and the undeserved privilege
of leading her.

I stand in the hallway,
resting my head on her bedroom door
in the wee hours of the morning, -
an ever present light
from the God who never fails His children
keeping total darkness at bay.

And, I find myself doing what only comes naturally -
wiping tears from my eyes while
thanking my God.











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Monday, September 11, 2017

God's Waiting Room~


Have you ever been in God's waiting room?


You prayed for an answer.

(Silence)


You prayed for God to move.

(Stillness)


You prayed for God to open doors and make a way.

(Closed doors and dead ends)




Waiting.

(It's not easy.)




God IS faithful, we know this to be true.

But.....


Why?


WHy?


WHY?


Why does God sometimes choose to delay?
Why do we sometimes (often times) have to wait?



Could it be

- in the waiting -

we discover if WE are faithful?



Will we wait

UNTIL the answer comes,

UNTIL God moves,

UNTIL the door opens?



Will we persevere in prayer?


Waiting for Grownups
{Photo Credit}


Maybe God is waiting to see.


I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
 ~ Psalm 130:5







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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Just Wondering . . .

"Where are you?
Where did you go?"

Arriving home and
stepping out of the car,
I saw it immediately.

As I shut the car door behind me,
I was drawn straight to its beauty.

Pulling out my camera,
I was hunched down low to the ground,
focusing and shooting away,
out of sight from my mom,
who was now wondering where I was.

"I'm over here," I said as I stood up
and starting walking towards my mom
and the front door.

"What were you doing?"

"I was trying to capture the beauty
 of the flowers there by the car."

"What flowers?"

And with that,
she started walking
to where I had just been.

"Oh, this?  This is just alfalfa.
It doesn't belong here.
It started coming up all on its own."

"Yes, I know it's alfalfa,
but look at the flowers on it.
Isn't that a gorgeous shade of purple?
These flowers are so beautiful."

"Well, yes, but it's just alfalfa."

And with that,
she headed back to the front door.

 . . . just alfalfa.

And, I couldn't help wondering,
how many times in my life,
I had looked at that
which was right in front of me
as just a this or just a that.

And, I began to debate,
with no one but myself,
if referring to something
as just a this or just a that
was truly a just judgment.

Who decided a flower on an alfalfa plant
isn't just as beautiful as a rose
punctuating a long stem of thorns?

Is anything in life
worthy of being classified
as just a __________?

Just a glass of water.
(How in the world
does hydrogen and oxygen
combine to form a liquid
necessary for life?)

Just a another day.
(How in the world
does the sun orbit in the universe
and rise and set every 24 hours?)

Just a coincidence.
(How in the world
does something happen
in just the right way
at just the right time?)

Just - what an unusual word.

So often when we use it,
at least, in the way I seem to hear it most -
it is used to convey
"merely, only".

And yet,
this very same word can also
convey just the opposite -
"exactly, precisely, actually, positively" -
such as:
The alfalfa flowers were just gorgeous!

And,
I wonder if we are looking
at our world,
at the people in our lives,
at the every day things
in our every day lives,
at our very God,
in just the right way.

Is our assessment,
our opinion,
our judgment,
just?

Just maybe,
we our missing out on
the reality of what is
because we settle for
just seeing this
or just seeing that.

What if the all of our life
isn't simply
just this or just that
but
incredibly,
miraculously,
unbelievably,

just amazing?!

How would
our attitude,
our contentment,
our satisfaction,
our enjoyment,
our joy,
our fulfillment in life change
if we just
justed (yes, I just made that word up!)
in a more positive way?

 . . . just alfalfa?

Maybe.

But,
with the Holy Spirit's help,
I pray I see life,
all of it,
just as He intended for me to:
with awe,
with wonder,
with appreciation,
and with thanksgiving -
a gift from His hand,
just for me,
just because,
just incredible!










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Thursday, August 31, 2017

When Ugly Takes Over~

"No, it's not.
It's not beautiful at all.
It's ugly - 
so very ugly."

Broken,
I had headed back to the bedroom
that had become mine once again.

Fifteen years ago,
in August, 2002,
I had moved back in with my parents,
and into this very room.

My father's health, declining,
my mom's strength in carrying the weight, waning,
my "Daddy's girl" heart, aching,
my husband's heart, willing,
and God's perfect will, leading
had me unpacking bags and settling in.

Now,
years later,
here I was again,
my mom's needs, calling.

Only this time it was so very different than before -
my Daddy no longer in his chair,
and my man no longer on the other end of a phone call.

And my mom,
as different from me as I am from her.

And me,
as different from my mom and she is from me.

We share a love that is deep,
make no mistake about that,
it's just we see life from completely different angles.
I see it with my heart.
She sees it with her head.
And sometimes,
it seems we will never see it all,
eye to eye,
the same.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Broken by words that were spoken in frustration -
by her
and most heartbreakingly, by me,
I had retreated to "my" bedroom.

Sitting on the edge of the bed,
I glanced at the nightstand
and spotted a card my husband had sent me
so many years before
when I was here,
and he was living 400 miles away.




Your the best, my little Panquitch. God will never forget your labor of love for so many, and the total sacrifice you give everyday. You are an earthly angel and have been so beautiful to me. Thank you, Honey. You make my heart glad. I am so proud of you. True character shines forth in adversity and yours is beautiful to behold. You are a true woman, Proverbs 31 personified. You have a great personality, quiet and meek, but also so strong and powerful. God loves you so much and is well pleased. Thank you for being so good to me, my baby. I'll love you always, your thankful Husband, Estaban

As soon as my eyes landed on the phrase -
True character shines forth in adversity
and yours is beautiful to behold -
my tears,
almost in an effort to wash away the earlier moments between my mom and me,
poured from my eyes.
And out loud,
these words joined my tears,
as they burst out of my mouth.

"No, it's not.
It's not beautiful at all.
It's ugly - 
so very ugly."

And, I cried and cried until I couldn't cry anymore -
tears of regret,
tears of shame,
tears of missing my dad
who would always run interference between my mom and me,
tears of missing my man
who (a phone call away)
would always listen, correct, redirect, encourage, and get me back on my way,
tears of missing the mark again in my God-given calling,
tears of hurting my Heavenly Father's heart,
tears of hurting my mom,
tears of realizing just how ugly my fleshly character is.

"Oh, Lord.
Please forgive me."

As I sat there worn and completely undone,
in my heart,
I could hear words my husband had spoken to me so many times before -

"You're not perfect, Beautiful. No one is.  You're going to mess up sometimes. We all do. But, look at your brokenness.  It's not what you want to happen. It's not what you want to do. Don't be so hard on yourself.  You can't do anything to change what happened, but try to learn from this and do it differently next time.  Did you take a minute to pray, Baby?  Did you ask God to step in and take over? Did you yield to the precious fruit of His Spirit?  These are all things you can do next time. You love your mom and she loves you.  Wipe your tears, Beautiful.  It's not the end.  It's just part of being human, sometimes."

And then,
words my father had spoken over and over again, too -

"Be nice, Darlin'. Really, that's all you can do.  Your mom is going to see things the way she sees things and your going to see things the way you do, but you can always be nice. Just be nice, Darlin'. And, talk nice. Always talk nice."

And then,
words my Heavenly Father spoke in His word and I have hidden in my heart -

"Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them."
~Ephesians 4:29

"And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you."
~Ephesians 4:32

"No, Lord,
this adversity is not bringing out the beautiful of Christ in me,
but oh, how I want it to.
Take my flesh and all its ugliness
and replace it with Your Spirit, Lord.
Help me to remember
to pause,
to invite You into each conversation,
each reaction,
each moment
of each and every day,
How I need You, Lord.
Thank you that always You are here.
Because You are,
I have ALL I need.

Bless this time
between my mother and me.
I know I am the blessed one
to have been chosen to be here
at this time,
in this place,
in this way.
Help me to make it all count, Lord.
Let each moment
draw me closer to my precious mom,
and closer to You, Lord."

I rested the card from my Handsome Honey
back on the nightstand by the bed,
and as I reached to open the door
and head back into the living room,
I received a text from my sister:

"We are going to get through this . . . . . together."

To be so surrounded by so much love -
by those who have been
and those who remain,
and a God whose very name is I AM -
I texted my sister back:

"Yes, we will  . . . . . together."

And, I have a feeling,
if we do it God's way,
it's going to be
beautiful
to behold.







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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

From This Day Forward, Lord, . . .

I knew I had to come.

What I didn't know
was how fast God
would set one of my reasons for being here
into motion.

As I stepped out of my car,
I felt the warmth of the sun,
the cool of a gentle mountain breeze,
and all the emotions of being at this very spot,
simultaneously.

For 15 years,
minus one -
(our second anniversary)
each August 7th,
my husband and I returned
to the mountain soil where we had once stood,
pledging our love one to another
and exchanging our vows.

Last year,
the first anniversary without my husband,
I spent this special day in the company of my sister,
in another state,
almost 700 miles north.

This year, though,
I knew I had to come back -
for my husband,
for me,
for us.

The fact that we had fulfilled our vows,
that we had stayed husband and wife
until death do us part,
was only by the grace of God.

I knew I had to come to this life-changing spot
on behalf of my husband
as much as for myself,
to thank God for seeing us through.
And, not just through,
but for also graciously bringing us so much closer
to each other and our Savior
through the process of living our everyday life as Mr. and Mrs.

But,
that wasn't the only reason I knew I had to come.

After we had exchanged our vows
and sealed the deal
with one of the sweetest kisses ever,
the pastor who had officiated our ceremony
sent us off
with the words of a prayer.

He prayed,
that we
who had come to this place
as two separate people -
would -
with God's help -
leave from this mountain sanctuary
as no longer he and she,
but as "we"
as us,
as one.

That each step,
each decision,
each turn in the path of life
would find us
single-minded,
single-hearted,
single in purpose.

I knew in my heart
that now,
without my love,
if I was ever going to be able
to move forward in my life,
I had to come back,
stand upon this same soil,
and pray a similar prayer.

As much as I hate the reality of it all,
I was now "one" again.
My other half
no longer by my side.

Lord,
help me to leave from this place today,
no longer as an "us" -
mindful of what my Handsome Honey and I would do,
of what we would dream,
of what we accomplish,
of what we would want,-
but as one,
as me.

Lord,
here I am.
I surrender all to You.
Here is my life.
I place it in Your hands
as the Author and Finisher of my life.
Take the next chapter 
and fill in the pages 
however You desire.

I felt the cool of the breeze again
and with tears streaming down my face
I prayed one last prayer.

Precious Holy Spirit,
blow on my life.
Blow me in whatever direction You want.
I'm Yours.

The following morning,
I received a phone call from my mother.
A trip to a doctor's office
had found her on her way to a local hospital.

I quickly packed my suitcase,
threw it into the trunk of my car
and set out to be with her.

Thankfully, eight hours later
when I walked into the emergency room,
she was being released to go home.

That night,
after she was fast asleep,
while my head rested on my pillow
and my heart rested on my Jesus
in the bedroom down the hall from hers,
I knew God was releasing her into my care.

In my spirit,
I could sense God
gently and oh, so very tenderly
reach into the story of my life,
and turn the page.

With His nail-scarred hand,
He smoothed out the blank page
and began to write.

August 8, 2017

Honor your father and your mother.  

Today,
twenty days later,
I'm still resting my head on my pillow
and resting my heart on my Jesus
in the bedroom down the hall from hers.

Each day,
God is faithfully writing my next chapter -
and with each stroke of His pen,
I am learning what surrender,
true surrender,
is.

"Hopefully, they can figure out what's wrong with me
 and you can get back to living your life," my mom says.

"Oh, don't think you're going to get rid of me that easily," I answer back.
"You and me - we're in it now - bosom buddies."

Because what she doesn't realize,
and what she doesn't know,
is that I am back to living my life.

This chapter,
just happens to be all about her.


God in His wisdom and love
knew
I had to come.










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Monday, August 7, 2017

When Two Becomes One Again~

You know what it is?"
I ask out loud to a living room of one.
"It's the whole "two are better than one" principle.
That's exactly what it is."

(And, admittedly,
talking out loud to myself
is part of what it is, too.)

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor.
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together,
they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
~Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

One too many ice cream shakes.

Far too many sleepless nights.

Harder falls with even harder pick-me-back-ups.

Too much taking myself seriously and not enough of you to put my eyes back on God.

"Yes, this is what it is, Handsome."

Marriage isn't easy,
make no mistake about that.
Two lives, two minds, two hearts,
two dreams, two opinions,
two "know it alls" trying to mesh into one.

No wonder marriage is for life -
without a doubt,
it takes a lifetime for the "two to become one".

It takes a whole lot of dancing to learn the steps
and to finally enjoy waltzing through life.

But, what happens when death cuts in
(unwelcome, uninvited, unplanned)
and leaves you dancing on the dance floor alone?

What happens when on of the two
who have become one,
is now one again?

Yes, two people becoming one flesh is hard.

The only thing harder:
Becoming one again after having been joined as two.

Yes, I have family.
And, yes, I have friends.
And, yes, Handsome -
everyone has gone above and beyond
to encourage,
to comfort,
to support,
to be there for me,

But the thing is this:
No one knows me like you do.

No one understands my hopes
and is aware of my fears.
No one can predict how I will react
before I react.
No one can hear
what my eyes are saying.
No one can talk me down,
talk me up,
balance me out and keep me grounded.
Like you.

No one knows our history.
No one can sight a leading of God in the past
to encourage me to step out into the future.
No one can quote a scripture with a memory connected to it.
No one can rekindle my faith,
reboot my courage,
re-ignite my passion.
Like you.

Except God.
And, of course,
God is always the exception
who is exceptional at all of this
and so much more.

But, I miss the second best part of me, -
the part that was second best
to the best part of me,
God.

I miss my dancing partner.
I miss your words, and your humor.
I miss your look and your hand in mine.
I miss your zeal and your enthusiasm,
I miss your honesty and your spontaneity.
I miss your hugs and your wrapping me in prayer
each morning and each night.

"The hardest part for me was feeling like part of me was missing.
Because, it was."

My mom told me these words a couple of days after you were gone.
Kneeling on the floor in the hallway,
outside the bathroom door where you took your last breath,
sobbing uncontrollably
and wanting nothing more than you back, she -
having walked this walk before me -
walked over to me and said those words.

A couple of months later,
one night while talking with her on the phone,
she said them again.

No wonder I feel so lost.
No wonder I feel so empty.
No wonder I feel so "not like me" anymore.

"Yes, that's what it is,"
I say out loud to a living room of one.
"It's the whole "two are better than one" principle.
That's exactly what it is."

While the missing you is hard,
and while the trying to become one "me" again
after years of becoming one "us"
is pulling me apart,
I lift my hands to Heaven and thank God
for the better I had with you.

A beautiful better.

A better beyond what I could have ever hoped better to be.

A better I would choose to do with you over and over and over again,
if only I could.

If only I could.



(Today, August 7, our anniversary.)







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Thursday, July 20, 2017

"Lord, All I Wanted Was . . ."~

Sometimes,
most times it seems,
we get handed more
than what we bargained for.

Me,
all I wanted was a burrito.

Stopping by a favorite breakfast spot
my husband and I frequented
whenever we were blessed with mornings that "matched",
I stood at the counter
ordering my favorite burrito to go.

I've done this on occasion,
every other two weeks or so,
off and on for almost a year and a half now.

But yesterday,
as I was reaching into my wallet to pay,
the waitress who had waited on my husband and I
time and time again,
reached right into my heart.
As I handed her the money,
she unexpectedly handed me this:

"Are you dating?"

No doubt,
if I'd been eating my burrito at the time,
I would have choked.

"I'm sorry, what?
Dating?
Hmm.......no."

"It's time.
You need to be.
You're still beautiful and young and he would want you to enjoy your life.
Do it.
It's time."

With that,
she reached over the counter,
swallowed me up in a hug,
handed me my burrito
and sent me out the door.

With a burrito in my hand
and unsolicited words in my heart,
I made my way to my car.
And, I just sat there.

"Lord, all I wanted was a burrito."

The words tumbled out of my heart
in a prayer that said what all the rest of me couldn't.

Minus the burrito part,
it's a prayer the Lord has heard frequently
over the past year and a half.

"Lord, all I wanted was . . . "

Rushing home from work to get my husband to the hospital . . .
only to be too late.

Happily serving the Lord in ministry . . .
only to be let go.

"Lord, all I wanted was . . . "

As I sat in my car,
my burrito getting colder by the minute,
God, in the most amazing way,
began to warm my heart
with reminders of other times
I had spoken this exact same phrase.

Wanting a few extra days of paid time off after my husband's death
only to be given this
and several weeks more -
a gift from my gracious co-workers.

"Lord, all I wanted was . . . "

Wanting my airfare to Delaware covered for my speaking engagement this past March
only to be given this
and a $400 honorarium, and $300 love offering.

"Lord, all I wanted was . . . "

Wanting my expenses covered at a women's retreat I spoke at a week later
only to be given this
and a $100 honorarium, and a $550 love offering.

"Lord, all I wanted was . . . "

Wanting my roof repaired and a damaged ceiling patched up, dry-walled, and painted
only to be given this
and the ordering, delivery, and free installation of a new air conditioner,
a leaky faucet repaired, blinds hung, and so much more.

"Lord, all I wanted was . . . "

"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the Lord.
"And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."
~Isaiah 55:8-9

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."
~Psalms 23:1

Sitting in the parking lot
I began to see the "extras" in my life,
all of them, -
those that I didn't want,
those that I felt left me coming up short,
and those that I knew were over the top,
all in the light of the Good Shepherd.

How could I possibly know what I want?
How could I possibly know what I need?
How could I possibly know
what God has purposed,
what God has planned,
what God has prepared for those who love Him?

The Good Shepherd knows better than me
what I need,
what is best,
what His purposes and His plans are.

Even more than me,
He longs for me to be
whole,
complete,
lacking nothing.

He longs for me to follow Him.
He longs for me to trust Him.
He longs for me
to see Him,
to hear Him,
to experience Him
in each and everyone of the "extras" of life.

I placed my key in the ignition
and buckled by seat belt.

Yes, sometimes,
most times it seems,
we get handed more
than what we bargained for.

May we learn to thank God for the "more" -
no matter how it comes packaged,
believing if we follow our Good Shepherd,
we will never "want".










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